In the days after the terrorist attacks that took place on Sept. 11, Brian Jordan, OFM, was a constant presence at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, where he offered comfort and consolation to victims and their families, and to the first responders and the union constructions workers toiling in the wreckage.
Twelve days after Sept. 11, he also became a guardian of something else.
After celebrating a Mass at the NYPD command center on Vesey Street, a block and a half from the World Trade Center, Brian was approached by Frank Silecchia, a laborer from Local 731 of the Laborers International Union of North America, who asked him if he wanted to see God’s House. Silecchia led Brian into the remains of 6 World Trade Center and showed him a cross-like beam on top of a pile of debris, covered by insulation material on its left side, as though it were the Shroud of Turin.
This powerful symbol of faith became known as the Ground Zero Cross. From that day forward, Brian became its unofficial guardian, working with city officials to keep it out of storage facilities and forensic centers and making sure it remained near the World Trade Center and accessible to the people who needed the hope it represented.
His commitment to the cross did not end when it was moved to its current home in the 9/11 National Memorial & Museum. In 2011, he was listed as one of the multiple defendants in a lawsuit filed by the American Atheists, Inc., which claimed that the Ground Zero Cross should not be part of the museum because “it would impose religion through the power of the state.” Three years later, a federal appeals court ruled the cross could stay.
Brian recounts the journey of the Ground Zero Cross from 6 WTC to the museum in his new book, “The Ground Zero Cross,” which was published by Xlibris Press earlier this year. A personal memoir, the book touches on themes such as spirituality, grief sharing, selfless sacrifice, architecture, church history, biblical theology, and litigation as it describes the “many obstacles transcended on the way to the triumph of the Ground Zero Cross.”
“I decided to write the book three years ago after the federal appeals decision allowed the Cross to remain in the 9/11 memorial,” said Brian. “The book will appeal to anyone who was directly affected by the tragedy of 9/11 – both in the United States and in the 80 other countries where people lost loved ones.”
The book is dedicated to several groups, including the union construction workers who, like Silecchia, served at Ground Zero and made up 80 percent of the workforce during the rescue and recovery period. It is also dedicated to the New York City police and fire departments, the city’s Office of Emergency Management, the Port Authority Police Department, and family members of the victims of 9/11 at the World Trade Center who helped save the cross.
In the following excerpt, Brian writes of the importance of placing the cross where those impacted by Sept. 11 could see it and receive comfort:
My rationale was my firm belief (then, and even more so now) that this “cross” would serve as a sign of comfort and consolation not only for family members and friends who lost loved ones on 9/11 but also for all those who worked on the rescue and recovery operation – uniformed personnel, construction workers, volunteers and government agencies who served on that memorable 16-acre site.
It was one of the most emotionally cathartic moments of my life. I was right – this cross at Ground Zero has given and will continue to provide, comfort and consolation for many family members of 9/11 victims and recovery workers at Ground Zero. Why? Many recovery workers such as firefighters, police officers, construction workers and other city, state and federal agencies witnessed the carnage at 9/11. They helped pick up bodies and collect body parts. They sought solace at the Ground Zero Cross while hoping for some type of explanation as to why this mass destruction occurred.
“The Ground Zero Cross” is available for purchase online through Amazon.com and also at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum shop. Brian is willing to travel to any HNP ministry for a book discussion and signing. If any Provincial ministry, or any house of worship or non-profit group wishes to buy multiple copies of the book, Brian can offer a 50 percent discount. If HNP ministries wish to sell the book, they will be able to keep 50 percent of the profit. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Ground Zero Cross” is Brian’s first book. His second book, “The Heroic Priesthood of Father William B. Farrell – 1867–1930: Fighting Anti-Catholicism, Government Corruption, and Waterfront Gangsters” was published by Edwin Mellen Press in June.
In honor of his achievements, including the authorship of these two books, the Great Irish Fair of New York will present Brian with the “Father Mychal Judge, OFM, Memorial Award” on Sept. 16 in Coney Island, N.Y. Mychal, a friend of Brian, was killed on Sept. 11 while administering last rites to a fallen firefighter at the World Trade Center.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “Guardian of the Ground Zero Cross, Fr. Brian Jordan” – Aug. 21, 2017 WCBS 880 radio
- “Brian Jordan Blesses WTC Cross” – Aug. 10, 2011, HNP Today
- “Chaplain Brian Jordan Runs 20th NYC Marathon, Raises Funds” – Nov. 5, 2008, HNP Today
- “Ground Zero Cross to Transfer to St. Peter’s Church” – Sept. 27, 2006, HNP Today
- “Ground Zero’s T-Beam Cross Relocated, Reblessed” – Oct. 11, 2006, HNP Today